- Order in the courts: New York’s Byzantine justice system needs an overhaul February 21, 2022
by Daily News Editorial Board
The need to simplify New York State’s crazy quilt of courts, where there are nine separate trial courts, except in those areas where there are 11 separate trial courts, has been apparent since the current hodgepodge was ratified by New Yorkers in a 1961 constitutional referendum.
That reform, six decades ago, abolished such archaisms as domestic relations courts, children’s courts, the court of general sessions and municipal court. It was a good start, but there’s been no improvement since, leaving in place a confusing, expensive mess.
- Can New York Overhaul Its Complex, Antiquated Court System? February 16, 2022
by Luis Ferré-Sadurní in The New York Times
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wants the State Legislature to approve her plan to consolidate the state’s sprawling court network, which would condense 11 trial courts into 2.
For decades, governors and lawmakers have unsuccessfully tried to overhaul New York’s antiquated and fragmented court system, considered among the most complex to navigate in the country.
- DiFiore says support in place to overhaul N.Y.’s ‘obsolete’ court system February 16, 2022
by Robert Gavin in the Times Union
ALBANY — New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore on Wednesday said overhauling an antiquated trial court structure that too often fails to be racially and financially equitable is a top priority.
In her annual State of the Judiciary address, DiFiore highlighted the findings of former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, whose independent review of the state’s court apparatus found a “second-class system of justice for people of color” and “dehumanizing” and “demeaning” culture in criminal, civil, family and housing courts.
- Key Lawmakers Vow to Take Action on ‘Gut-Wrenching’ NYC Family Court Crisis February 5, 2022
Two key Albany lawmakers say the New York State legislature should move swiftly to address dysfunction in the NYC Family Courts that has prolonged family suffering because of outdated technology and massive backlogs. Thousands of families have struggled to get help visiting their children and collecting child support.
“This report highlights a gut-wrenching problem in the State of New York and we are going to do everything we can to fix that problem,” said Charles Lavine, Chair of the State Assembly Judiciary Committee. “It’s time for some more judges for the Family Court. It certainly is.”
The call for the New York State Legislature to exercise their unique power to create more Family Court Judgeships was echoed Friday by Senator Brad Hoylman, Chair of the State Senate’s Judiciary Committee. (more…)
- News Channel 4 New York Investigates: NYC Family Court in Crisis February 4, 2022
by Melissa Russo and Hilary Weissman on NBC New York (Channel 4)
NYC Bar calls out “deep inequities” in a system that serves mostly poor litigants and people of color.
When Covid-19 hit, the New York City Family Court came to a screeching halt for thousands of vulnerable families with children, revealing “deep inequities” and technical shortcomings that predated the pandemic, according to a report prepared by the NYC Bar Association and The Fund for Modern Courts.
The report, obtained by the News 4 I-Team, concludes that during the pandemic, the vast majority of families “had virtually no access” to the court. Citing historic underfunding, compared with other courts in the state, the report concludes “Family Court was ill-equipped to respond quickly, consistently, fairly and comprehensively” to families’ needs.
It also suggests the structure of the State’s court system locks the Family Court and its mostly poor litigants into a second rate system. (more…)
- The Impact of COVID-19 on the New York City Family Court: Recommendations on Improving Access to Justice for All Litigants February 4, 2022
In his recent report examining institutional racism in the New York State Court system, which had been requested by Chief Judge Janet M. DiFiore, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson singled out a handful of under-resourced trial courts throughout the state, including the Family Court, and concluded that “[t]he picture painted for us was that of a second-class system of justice for people of color in New York State.” Nowhere is this concept better demonstrated than in how the Family Court has fared during the COVID-19 pandemic. To be clear, the pandemic has been as unprecedented as it has been cruel, and nothing in this report should suggest that the Family Court reasonably could have met the challenges faced by litigants without, at least initially, some disruption of service. What followed from COVID-19, however, was a significant shutdown of service in the New York City Family Court for a large number of litigants for an extended period of time. In other words, our findings and recommendations are a product of the deep inequities in Family Court that this crisis has laid bare.
- Equal Justice Requires Simplification of the New York State Courts January 14, 2022
by Janet DiFiore, Chief Judge, State of New York
New Yorkers need a simple-to-navigate, equitably-structured court system that delivers first-class justice services to every litigant in every court—regardless of who they are or where they come from in life.
Over the last 22 months, the Bench and Bar have traveled a long and arduous road together. We have transformed and reinvented the ways in which we deliver our services in order to safely manage our workloads and ensure access to justice for all New Yorkers. In the New York State Courts, we have established a productive “new normal” that relies on our hybrid model of in-person and virtual court operations to deliver justice services to lawyers and litigants during the ongoing public health crisis. Furthermore, our court system has led the state in implementing important COVID preventative policies, such as the mandatory vaccination program for all judges and court staff that took effect last September. As a result, our court system is well-positioned to meet the evolving challenges of the pandemic and resume the forward progress of the “Excellence Initiative.” (more…)
- N.Y. Needs Structure in the Courts January 8, 2022
by Rolando T. Acosta, Randall T. Eng and Carolyn Walker-Diallo
in the Times Union
New York State has rightfully earned its place as one of the progressive capitals of the nation. New Yorkers have been at the forefront of some of the greatest movements for change over the course of our history — from workers’ rights to women’s suffrage, from civil rights to criminal justice reform.
But for decades, if not longer, that has not been true of needed reform of the court system. Right now, we are engaged in a struggle to transform our justice system to reverse generations of inequality and injustice. New York is today far behind many states in enacting long overdue reforms that we can and must pursue to ensure equal access to justice for all New Yorkers. (more…)
- Finally Bring Order to N.Y. Courts November 16, 2021
by Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson, Ronald Richter and Juanita Bing Newton
in the New York Daily News
The pandemic has accelerated and emphasized deep flaws in New York State’s justice system. Most glaringly, it has thrown a spotlight on how the state’s antiquated and complex trial court system puts our most vulnerable citizens at a terrible disadvantage in their pursuit of fair, speedy and equal access to justice. (more…)
- Renewed Call for Court Simplification by Chief Judge in No Uncertain Terms March 2, 2021
- Manhattan lawmaker wants to ensure judicial diversity in NY state February 10, 2020
by Denis Slattery
in the New York Daily News
Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) is introducing legislation that would help New York promote judicial diversity by creating annual reports providing lawmakers and the public with valuable insight and demographic information regarding those appointed and elected to the bench.
“They say you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” Hoylman said. “This legislation will help us to understand the importance of judicial diversity and where New York needs to make improvements.” Read more…
- VIDEO – Watch Governor Cuomo’s 2020 State of the State Address January 9, 2020
Watch Governor Cuomo announce his support for Court Restructuring in his 2020 State of the State Address.
- Cuomo Offers Support for DiFiore’s Court Reform Proposal in State of the State Address January 9, 2020
by Dan M. Clark
in the New York Law Journal
It’s the first time Cuomo has said he would discuss the issue of court reform with members of the Legislature, who have for years given the idea only cursory consideration.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced support during his annual State of the State address Wednesday for Chief Judge Janet DiFiore’s ambitious proposal to overhaul the state’s trial court system into a consolidated tier of venues intended to better serve attorneys and litigants.
- Biggest opponents to court-merger plan continues to be Supreme Court justices November 23, 2019
in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Court administrators have been trying regularly to get laws passed to consolidate the court system in New York for the last 50 years. Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks has spoken at two public hearings this month to discuss Chief Judge Janet DiFiore’s proposal to transform the 11-court system to a three-tiered system. It has drawn mixed reactions, with diversity and judicial independence being two of the biggest concerns expressed by judges who have weighed in. Read more…
- Video – Public Hearing: Court Consolidation – Nov. 21, 2019, Albany November 21, 2019
- Diversity, Independence Concerns Again Roil NY Court Reform November 21, 2019
by Ryan Boysen
The battle lines between supporters and opponents of a sweeping proposal to reform New York’s courts continued to harden at a second legislative hearing on Thursday, with concerns over diversity and stripping judges of their independence emerging as the flies in the ointment of an otherwise well received proposal. Read more…
- VIDEO – Public Hearing: Court Consolidation – Nov. 13, 2019, NYC November 13, 2019
- Reform Necessitates An Amendment November 9, 2019
by The Hon. Paula L. Feroleto
For nearly 30 years, the more rural counties of the Eighth Judicial District have been denied a sitting state Supreme Court Justice because of the logistics, expenses and political realities of being part of a sprawling district. Although the district, where I serve as Administrative Judge, consists of eight counties in Western New York and the Southern Tier, one large county, Erie County, has controlled the judicial election since the very early 1990s.
- Chief Judge Proposes Constitutional Reforms to Simplify Outdated Court Structure, Aiming to Enhance Access, Optimize Resources September 25, 2019
NEW YORK – Chief Judge Janet DiFiore today proposed amendments to the State Constitution that would eliminate New York’s complex maze of 11 separate trial courts and replace it with a simplified three-level structure to make the courts easier to navigate, increase operational efficiency and reduce costs to litigants, among other potential benefits.
- Modern Courts Supports Chief Judge’s Proposal to Simplify the State Court Structure September 25, 2019
ANNOUNCES ORGANIZATION OF A SIMPLIFY THE COURTS COALITION
New York, NY – Modern Courts welcomes and enthusiastically supports the Chief Judge Janet DiFiore’s proposal to change the current court system so that it better serves the needs of all those who use the courts to resolve their problems, whether civil, criminal, commercial or family matters.
Amelia T.R. Starr, Chair of the Fund and Committee for Modern Courts, said “Simplifying the courts will provide a system that works for all litigants – families, children, domestic violence survivors, advocates for the poor, small businesses, and anyone else who uses the courts.” Continue Reading
- Will Adding More Judges Fix the Overburdened N.Y. Family Court System? May 4, 2015
by Priyanka Singh in N.Y. Family Courts: Reforming a Broken System
Family courts; the “stepchild” court of N.Y.
N.Y. family courts were established in 1962 to handle some of the most vulnerable cases in the system involving children and families. With the increase in filings resulting in over 700,000 cases pending, and the lack of resources to efficiently handle all of these cases, the family court administration struggles to provide litigants the justice they seek. (more…)